January 04, 2022 I The Retail Beat I by Brad Boynton

Check Your Flight Status

We boarded this flight against our will back in March 2020. Within months, our lives and livelihoods were turned upside-down, restrictions were imposed and an uncertainty unimaginable in our lifetimes took control of each one of us. It was like boarding a plane for an unknown destination with a lot of turbulence and more than a few unruly passengers.

The flight hasn’t landed, but there are signs all around of a return to normalcy. At PASIC 2021 in Indianapolis there were packed performance halls and a bustling marketplace. Clinics and committee meetings were often overflowing, and the after-hours hangs were lively, as one person after another told their harrowing tales of adversity, stamina and resolve as they learned to adapt to these changes. But below the surface of these conversations was also a common denominator. Those who were thriving were the ones able to take advantage of the very disruptions that were paralyzing others. Here are some of the ways you can take advantage of these disruptions in our marketplace.

Plan Out Supply

For manufacturers to end-consumers and all points in between, there have been bottlenecks, backorders, delays and price increases. Sounds simple, but if you have the gear you can sell it. If you haven’t planned ahead or you have put all of your purchase orders in with a single vendor who has a container stuck in a port somewhere, then you can quickly lose control. The way to gain control back is through research and planning, and it’s admittedly very time consuming.

The pandemic-era retailer sometimes has to order instruments and accessories from five different sources to hedge their bets. We need to find out when a back order is expected, what alternatives exist, and if there are any wild cards we should know about such as suppliers unable to make their product because they can’t get the raw materials to do so. We need to know about imminent price increases so we can see if the product is still viable at the new price point.

Time to Expand?

There are bargains in commercial real estate as other businesses fail, coupled with a flight from our downtown cores as workers adjust to being able to work remotely indefinitely. For those taking advantage of this disruption, it means commercial real estate is available both for sale and for lease like never before. It’s a fantastic time to double down on your business, to expand and to entertain purchasing a building, which will help protect you from rising rents in the future.

Finding Good Help

Even the current labor shortage can benefit you. When we had over half of our employees leave at the onset of the pandemic, we worried about everything from how to keep our doors open to the loss of institutional knowledge that exited with them. Instead we went from a seven-day work week to five and gave those who stayed with the company more hats to wear. All of a sudden, the sales associates were creating videos, building product pages and taking over some of the purchasing tasks. Management was fulfilling mail orders, and our teachers were offering Zoom lessons and marketing themselves differently in order to grow their student base. The result? Staff is more productive and have a greater understanding of how our company works.

This flight known as COVID-19 hasn’t started its descent yet, and there will likely be some more bumps before we get to our destination. We still have constraints ranging from changing government regulation to the inability to get product on our shelves and the staff to sell it. The current climate is less than perfect, yet if you sit it out you’ll have a much more difficult time catching up, and you’ll miss out on countless opportunities along the way. MI

Brad Boynton is owner of Rhythm Traders in Portland, Oregon.

Brad Boynton is the owner of Rhythm Traders Drum Shop in Portland, Oregon.

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